tv 60 Minutes CBS June 27, 2010 7:00pm-8:00pm EDT
captioning funded by cbs and ford-- built for the road ahead. >> come on, baby. come on, baby, you can make it. >> you guys are going to make this, right? >> yeah, i'm hoping. >> kroft: you're hearing the last words of a crew aboard a doomed flight over afghanistan. far from any logical route, they slammed into a mountain, killing everybody on board, including lieutenant colonel mike mcmahon. you wouldn't be hearing about it tonight if it weren't for his widow, who decided to take on the military contractor
blackwater over an accident that never should have happened. >> he would have liked to have been able to go out, you know, fighting, not in the back of some plane, somebody else's victim. >> couric: as president obama's senior advisor, david axelrod is accustomed to fighting battles in the rough-and-tumble world of politics. but he and his wife susan have been face to face with another very personal adversary for the last 28 years. that's when their daughter lauren was diagnosed with epilepsy. >> you know, epilepsy is like terrorism of the brain. you don't know when it's going to strike, where you're going to be. >> couric: the axelrods are part of a movement that has tried to jump-start medical research. and it's finally beginning to unravel the mysteries of a disease that can strike and kill at any moment. >> 3, 2, 1, action.
>> safer: he directed what was the most profitable movie ever made, "titanic." then, james cameron beat his own record with "avatar," the wildly successful and very ambitious 3-d science fiction fantasy that mixes real actors with computer- generated creatures, some of which he believes can change the movie business forever. >> we fly straight. >> you are not in kansas anymore. >> i'm steve kroft. >> i'm lesley stahl. >> i'm scott pelley. >> i'm bob simon. >> i'm morley safer. >> i'm katie couric. those stories and andy rooney >>learn about a free trial offer from abilify. if you're taking an antidepressant and still feel depressed, one option your doctor may consider is adding abilify. abilify treats depression in adults when added to an antidepressant.
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>> kroft: more than 5,000 american servicemen and women have now died in the war zones of iraq and afghanistan, and more than 20% of those deaths have occurred under what the military calls "non-hostile circumstances." tonight, we are going to tell you about three of those deaths. they occurred when a small turboprop plane with the call sign "blackwater 61" slammed into a mountain in afghanistan. the flight was operated by presidential airways, the aviation arm of blackwater, the private military firm. it was operating under a government contract to haul troops, mail and supplies to remote landing strips. the crash was barely noted, except for the fact that one of the passengers was lieutenant colonel mike mcmahon-- at the
time, the highest-ranking soldier to die in the war. but as we first reported last february, it was an accident that never should have happened, and you would not be hearing about it tonight if it weren't for his widow, herself a former high-ranking army officer, who has waged a five-year battle against one of the military's most important contractors. >> colonel jeanette mcmahon: he would have liked to have been able to go out, you know, fighting, not in the back of some plane, somebody else's victim. >> kroft: army colonel jeanette mcmahon was no ordinary widow, and in her mind, her husband was the victim of blackwater. until her retirement a few months ago, the west point graduate and former helicopter pilot seemed to be a future candidate for general. but her life changed when her husband and west point classmate lieutenant colonel mike mcmahon was killed on a routine flight back to his cavalry squadron in western afghanistan.
and while still on active duty, she decided to sue blackwater's aviation subsidiary for flagrant safety violations and reckless disregard for human life. >> mcmahon: i wanted to understand what happened. for me, if i couldn't be there when he died, i felt like i wanted to at least be able to recreate what happened. >> kroft: she says it took her a year to get the full story, which begins early on the morning of november 27, 2004, at bagram air base outside kabul, where lieutenant colonel mcmahon had been meeting with his superiors. he hitched a last-minute ride on blackwater 61, joining two of his soldiers for the two-and-a- half hour flight into a dusty airstrip at farah. 40 minutes later, the plane's wreckage would be scattered near the top of one of afghanistan's tallest mountains, far from any logical route. what was your reaction when you first found out that the plane had crashed at almost 15,000 feet? >> mcmahon: well, what the heck were they doing up there?
it was clearly not anything to do with the mission or where they were going. >> kroft: do you think they were lost? >> mcmahon: oh, absolutely. absolutely. >> kroft: we decided to retrace the flight, to try and find out how blackwater 61 got so far off track on a morning when the flying conditions were perfect. some of the answers you'll hear from the pilots themselves in this cockpit voice recording recovered at the crash scene. >> captain noel english: yeah, with this good visibility, it's easy as pie. >> kroft: the tape has never been made public. you haven't heard the actual voice transmission? >> mcmahon: no, no, i haven't. >> kroft: we have a copy of it, if you want to hear. >> mcmahon: yeah. yeah, i'd love to hear it. >> english: i swear to god, they wouldn't pay me if they knew how much fun this was. >> kroft: the captain, noel english, and his co-captain, butch hammer, had only been in afghanistan for 13 days, and neither one of them had ever flown the route between bagram and farah. and their inexperience showed. they didn't file a flight plan,
and instead of taking the easier route to the southwest with lower mountains, they set off to the north and never seemed to get their bearings. >> english: i hope i'm going in the right valley. that one or this one? >> kroft: flight mechanic mel rowe voiced his concern early on. >> mel rowe: i don't know what we're going to see. we don't normally go this route. >> mcmahon: bingo-- "we don't normally go this route." >> kroft: to make matters worse, the blackwater operations center in bagram didn't have the equipment necessary to track the flight. so once it left the air base, the company had no idea where its plane was. but the crew seemed unperturbed. >> butch hammer: you're an x- wing fighter, "star wars" man. >> english: damn right. this is fun. >> kroft: 25 minutes into the flight, jeanette mcmahon recognized her husband's voice from the back of the plane. >> colonel mike mcmahon: you guys heading to farah first? >> yeah. >> mike mcmahon: okay. >> jeanette mcmahon: that's mike. >> kroft: i mean, he seems to be saying... >> jeanette mcmahon: "just
double checking again." >> kroft: yeah-- "it doesn't look familiar." ten minutes before the crash, the pilots were flying down the wide bamian valley, discussing what kind of music they wanted to pipe into their headsets. >> english: philip glass or something suitably new agey. >> hammer: no, we got to have butt rock, that's the only way to go-- quiet riot, twisted sister. >> kroft: jeanette mcmahon, an army aviator, could only shake her head. >> mcmahon: when are they going to start paying attention to where they're going? >> kroft: if the crew had just continued in the valley for a while longer, they could have easily crossed over to farah at a comfortable altitude. but for some inexplicable reason, the pilot turned to the left, towards one of the tallest mountain ranges in afghanistan, in an unpressurized plane not known for its climbing ability. >> english: well, let's kind of look and see if we've got anywhere we can pick our way through. doesn't really matter-- it's going to spit us out down at the bottom anyway.
>> mcmahon: "it doesn't really matter"? everything matters when you're in a cockpit. >> kroft: as this animation shows, blackwater 61 tried to wind its way through a box canyon with steep mountains on both sides, and the terrain rose faster than the plane could climb. >> english: come on, baby. come on, baby, you can make it. >> rowe: okay, you guys are going to make this, right? >> english: yeah, i'm hoping... ( buzzer sounds ) >> kroft: a buzzer similar to a stall warning went off in the cockpit, indicating the plane didn't have enough lift. >> rowe: got a way out? >> english: we can do a 180 up in here... >> rowe: yeah, you need to make a decision. >> kroft: they waited another 30 seconds before the pilot tried unsuccessfully to turn the plane around. ( overlapping voices ) >> mcmahon: ( sighs ) shouldn't have happened.
they waited too long. and they... they had no clue. >> kevin mcbride: they headed for the tallest mountain around. i... i don't get it. >> kroft: kevin mcbride was a blackwater pilot in afghanistan, who had flown to farah many times. you wouldn't have taken that route? >> mcbride: no, you don't fly up a box canyon that rises rapidly into a huge mountain. that's just, you know, aviation 101. >> kroft: and because blackwater was unable to track the flight, and didn't have anyone on the ground in farah, it took them five hours to discover that their plane was missing, and only then because a sergeant waiting to be picked up by blackwater 61 at the desolate airstrip notified his superiors that the plane was hours overdue. >> mcbride: right away, we're thinking, well, geez, they must have got shot down or had an engine failure or something.
and i just... i had no idea, and neither did anyone else. >> kroft: it was mid-afternoon before search and rescue teams were in the air, but they didn't know where to look. they covered the more logical southern route to no avail. it wasn't until the next morning that a weak homing signal was picked up by a military plane west of bagram and the wreckage was spotted, a tiny dot in the snow at the top of a massive mountain range. but bad weather set in and it took the recovery team two more days to reach the site. battling thin air and subzero temperatures, they recovered six bodies. five of the men, including lieutenant colonel mcmahon, had died instantly. but inside the fuselage, they found the body of army specialist harley miller, stretched out on his sleeping bag. air force para-jumper miguel folch was one of the first to see him. >> miguel folch: we were like, "man, looks like this guy could have survived." >> kroft: what position was he in? >> folch: he had his hands around his head, like, you know, using it as a pillow. >> kroft: it wasn't a crash
position? >> folch: no. no, no. no. >> kroft: they also found cigarette butts and urine stains in the snow, more indications that miller had been alive and was walking around on the mountain. after the flag-draped coffins arrived at dover air force base, autopsies were conducted. dr. todd burd was part of the investigative team. is there any doubt in your mind that harley miller survived the crash, initially? >> dr. todd burd: oh, no doubt. he... he did survive. >> kroft: for how long, do you think? >> burd: total survival was probably about eight to ten hours, although he would not have been fully conscious for near that long of time. >> kroft: if he'd been rescued during that period, do you think he could've survived? >> burd: yes, he... he could... could've survived. >> kroft: but since no one knew where the plane had crashed that day, any chance of saving miller was lost. he is survived by his wife and a son. jeanette mcmahon says that she and the other widows probably would never have filed the lawsuit if blackwater or its aviation wing had shown some remorse. did they call you and express
their condolences? >> mcmahon: never. never. they took absolutely no responsibility. i mean, if they had come out with open arms and said, "we are responsible. we are so sorry." that point never really came across. >> kroft: did anybody with the army come and say, "look, we really don't want you to file this lawsuit?" >> mcmahon: no. it was a personal decision. i do my lawsuit in my civilian clothes, and then i go to work in my uniform. >> kroft: do you think blackwater underestimated you? >> mcmahon: i think so. >> kroft: neither blackwater nor presidential airways would give us an interview. but court records show that they argued to get the lawsuit dismissed on the grounds that they were part of the military and immunized from civil lawsuits. they also claimed there was no actual proof of what caused the crash, and even asked that the case be tried under islamic law because the crash occurred in afghanistan. under islamic law, companies are not liable for the actions of their employees. >> mcmahon: yeah, that's almost funny, you know.
so, am i supposed to go put on a burqa? you know, that's ridiculous. >> kroft: even though a military investigation and a national transportation safety board report faulted blackwater's flight operations and its pilots for flying recklessly and behaving unprofessionally, presidential airways chief richard pere tried to lay some of the blame on lieutenant colonel mcmahon, saying in a videotaped deposition that mcmahon had told the pilots to take the route that they did. >> richard pere: something changed them to make them go to the north, sir. >> when? >> pere: it took place after lieutenant colonel mcmahon got on board that aircraft. >> kroft: but blackwater pilot kevin mcbride remembers pere telling him a much different story not long after the crash. >> mcbride: richard pere pulled me into his office. he says, "have you seen the cockpit voice recording transcript?" i said, "no." he says, "you can't believe it. these guys are talking about x- wing 'star wars' fighters and this and that. they were just having a good old
time, and they flew into the ( bleep ) mountain." that's what he told me. >> kroft: why do you think he was telling you that? >> mcbride: i don't think he could believe it, himself. >> kroft: after the crash, blackwater aviation was suspended for a month. but it went on to win another $92 million contract from the pentagon in 2007 to expand its operations out of bagram. flight tracking devices were added to the planes, and at least one experienced crew member must now be in the cockpit. american troops continue to fly on blackwater's planes every day, just as lieutenant colonel mike mcmahon did five years ago, trying to get back to his troops for battles ahead. >> we all love you and miss you a lot. >> kroft: he's buried on fiddler's green at west point, mourned by three sons and one very determined widow. >> mcmahon: there were safeguards that could've been put in place that would've kept this from happening. and in my opinion, that's negligence. it happened to happen when it did and, unfortunately, it happened to my loved one, but it was going to happen, eventually.
>> kroft: since we first reported this story, the military contractor reached an out-of-court settlement with jeanette mcmahon and the two other army widows. the terms have not been disclosed, but the offer was made after we taped the interview with mcmahon and after we requested interviews with blackwater and presidential airways. >> money watch update good evening. world leaders promised to cut money deficits in half by 2013, despite president obama's warning that could stall an economic recovery. gas rose five cents in two weeks to an average of 2.76 a gallon, and toy story 3 won the box office again. gallon, and toy story 3 won the box office again. cbs news. get my hands dirty... and try new things. so i asked my doctor
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senior advisor, david axelrod is accustomed to fighting battles in the rough-and-tumble world of politics. but he and his wife susan have been face to face with another very personal adversary for the last 28 years. that's when their oldest child, lauren, was diagnosed with epilepsy. as we reported last fall, lauren axelrod is one of nearly three million americans living with epilepsy, more than parkinson's, multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy combined. and one third of those with epilepsy don't respond to treatment. faced with few medical options, the axelrods are part of a movement that has tried to jump- start medical research in a fight for a cure, and is finally beginning to unravel the mysteries of a disease that can strike and kill at any moment. >> david axelrod: epilepsy is like terrorism of the brain. you don't know when it's going to strike, where you're going to be. >> couric: david and susan axelrod knew nothing about
epilepsy until, one morning, susan found their seven-month- old daughter lauren lying in her crib, limp and blue. >> susan axelrod: i thought that she had died. and i picked her up, and she immediately went into a seizure. now, i had never seen a seizure before in my life, and i didn't know that that's what it was, and i watched, you know, one arm go up, and... and her body stiffen, and her eyes rolled back, and she was frothing at the mouth. your classic description of a seizure. >> couric: this is what a seizure can look like. it's caused by a sudden, out-of- control burst of electrical activity in the brain. some children grow out of it; others can control it with medication. but, for lauren, nothing worked. as she grew older, she continued to have seizures, sometimes as many as 25 a day. you've written, i know, susan, very eloquently about this, but lauren used to scream, "mommy,
make it stop, make it stop." >> susan axelrod: there's nothing worse than... you know, than having your child cognizant enough to know what's going on and know what's happening and begging you to help, and you can't do anything. >> couric: lauren is now 29 years old. her brain was damaged by the severity and frequency of her seizures, and she's living at the misericordia home for the developmentally disabled in chicago. do you remember what it felt like to have a seizure? >> lauren axelrod: it felt like it was really scary when i had them. >> couric: like what? can you describe it? >> lauren axelrod: like that i was feeling like i was going to fall down when i had them. >> david axelrod: the other half of the story isn't just what happened during the seizures, but between the seizures, because the medications and the treatments were so hard, and they impacted on her
personality, and they impacted on her cognition, they impacted on her ability to walk. >> lauren axelrod: i'm lauren. i'm 18 years old. >> couric: by the time lauren was 18, they had tried 23 different medications and an unsuccessful brain surgery. nothing worked, and the axelrods were stunned to realize how little research and money were dedicated to finding a cure. epilepsy strikes and kills about as many people each year as breast cancer, which gets five times more federal funding. so, susan and two other mothers started a non-profit called "cure" to raise awareness and fund innovative research. >> susan axelrod: why can't they stop a seizure? i mean, this is a disease that's been known since biblical times. and it just seemed the... the research and the ability to treat and control is so primitive. >> couric: why? as you say, it's been around forever. it affects so many people. >> david axelrod: you know, it
was viewed, even into this century, as... you know, widely as sort of demonic possession and so on. you know, it's so frightening to see someone have a seizure. and it makes people uncomfortable. >> frances jensen: that is a seizure. you're looking at a seizure. >> couric: some of cure's money goes to the lab of dr. frances jensen at children's hospital in boston. and she's making significant progress. her team is developing the first medicines designed specifically for newborns, whose growing brains are particularly susceptible to seizures. >> jensen: some of the epilepsies that affect babies, they don't respond to adult drugs, so the seizures don't get corrected. the brain development, in the more severe cases, gets affected. >> couric: dr. jensen's method for developing new drugs involves actual epileptic brain tissue, which she can keep alive for several hours, enough time for her to experiment with different medications.
>> jensen: this cell coming out of a human patient, you can see, is having an epileptic seizure. >> couric: she's testing a new anti-convulsant drug and, at least in the lab, it worked. >> jensen: we can see that we've stopped brain activity in this case. >> couric: this seems like a eureka drug. is it? >> jensen: well, it is a prototype drug. so, in this case, it worked. >> couric: but no one medication will ever treat the more than 25 different types of seizures, which are diagnosed by recording brain activity. if a seizure is in the part of the brain responsible for motor skills, it can cause a person to jerk uncontrollably. in another region, it can be as subtle as a brief staring spell. because of the range of symptoms, dr. jensen says epilepsy is often misdiagnosed. >> jensen: the people that have staring spells could be mislabeled as just, you know, not paying attention or attention issues. some people later in life have seizures, and it gets mistaken for dementia.
>> couric: does it make you furious that more attention hasn't been paid to this? >> jensen: yes. people don't realize that it's happening to two in 100 people, and even more than that-- in five or six out of every 100 children have had some form of epilepsy. >> couric: some of the people most at risk are those who have sustained head injuries, which is why the u.s. military is also focusing on epilepsy. there are thousands of veterans with traumatic brain injuries from fighting in iraq and afghanistan, who we know from other wars have up to a 50% chance of developing epilepsy. captain pat horan was severely wounded two years ago while on patrol in baghdad. >> captain pat horan: i got shot right in the head. and i lost my... what is it called? my... my reading? >> couric: he also lost his
ability to walk, write, and even speak. >> horan: i lost the whole thing. >> couric: pat and his wife patty say his seizures, which started four months after his injury, have been the hardest part of his recovery at walter reed medical center. each seizure would wipe out the progress he was making, and he'd have to start all over again. do you wonder, patty, how much more pat might have progressed if he didn't have the epilepsy? >> patty horan: yeah, i do. they say most of your healing is going to be done in the first two years. so, a year and a half of that, he had seizures, you know, every month, every two months, >> david axelrod: you have all these young people coming back, and they are very, very much at risk.ñi the statistics from vietnam reflected a high percentage of those with penetrating brain injuries developed epilepsy, you know, five, seven, ten years later. >> couric: the military is
already treating soldiers with severe brain injuries in the field with anti-seizure medications, to try to prevent seizures during the early stages of recovery. at 29 sites across the country, another experimental treatment is under way, using a pulse of electricity in the brain to stop a seizure in its tracks. 26-year-old monica lovelace is part of a clinical trial going on at california pacific medical center in san francisco. monica was diagnosed with epilepsy when she was five years old after contracting meningitis. she and her husband ben have two young children, but her seizures make it hard for her to take care of them. why did you decide to get this experimental procedure? >> monica lovelace: absolutely, for my kids. absolutely. i won't... i wanted to be able to walk my kids to school. if i'm walking them... them to school and i have a seizure, are they going to walk into the street?
>> couric: she is getting a device implanted in her brain that will detect the beginning of a seizure and give her a pulse of electrical stimulation to make it stop, like a pacemaker. dr. peter weber, a neurosurgeon, uses a computer to calculate the safest route to implant electrodes in her brain. >> dr. peter weber: the wires come from the back forward, deep inside the brain. that's the way they look from the front-on view. >> couric: implanted in the skull, the neuro-pace device is smaller than a cell phone. when it's turned on, it immediately detects monica's abnormal brain activity. >> weber: these are abnormal discharges that lead to seizures. >> couric: we followed up with monica three months after the device was implanted. now that you have this device in your brain, what happens when you feel a seizure's coming on? can you explain it? >> lovelace: it doesn't come on. yeah, it doesn't come on. >> couric: monica still gets the
familiar sensation that she's about to have a seizure, but now, it usually stops. she showed us how she wirelessly downloads her brainwaves. >> lovelace: this goes over the area where the device is. >> couric: the information is sent by computer to her doctor, who then fine-tunes the stimulation. while the device is still in the early stages, a preliminary study showed it helped 50% of people with seizures in the same region of the brain as monica's. >> lovelace: it's kind of neat, because me and my husband were talking about all the different possibilities of what i can do now, like, you know, maybe getting a job. >> couric: after 18 years of trial and error, lauren axelrod was given a newly approved medication that finally controlled her seizures. at her home in chicago, she is becoming more independent and making friends. her father hung one of her paintings above his desk at the white house after he moved to
washington last year. how torn do you feel having lauren here? >> david axelrod: it's been hard to explain to her. she doesn't understand why. she asks all the time, "why does barack obama need so much help?" >> couric: he recently surprised her with an unplanned visit. while the axelrods are grateful for how far their daughter has come, they're committed to helping other families intervene sooner than they could for lauren. do you ever look at her and kind of think, "gee, what if? what would she be doing now?" >> susan axelrod: too often. and this is what happens. yeah, it's painful. >> david axelrod: god knows what she could've been. but that's a... that's a treacherous place to go. you know, there was a time when we would have given our right arm for just a... a week of good days. and now, she has them consistently.
so, you know, that's a big victory. >> couric: since we first broadcast this story, the national institutes of health announced two new programs to generate innovative epilepsy research. [ man ] for years, i trusted an old traditional brokerage with my money. they charged me a small fortune, but i never really knew what they were doing. so i switched to e-trade. it's high-tech, easy to use, low cost. i can screen investments, analyze them, diversify properly, track everything, even on my smartphone. and help is available any time. it's transformed my investing. experience high-tech investing at e-trade.
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>> safer: he may not have won an academy award this year, but there's no doubt james cameron is the heavyweight champion of hollywood. his latest spectacular, the 3d epic "avatar," pulled in nearly $2.75 billion worldwide, breaking the record cameron set with "titanic" 12 years before. last fall, while finishing up
the film, cameron took us on a tour of his own personal third dimension, where the work is painstaking and many of the actors are blue. here's another look at the maestro and his cast of creatures. >> you're not in kansas anymore. >> safer: the movie is "avatar," and 70 years after judy garland left kansas for oz, jim cameron plans to take audiences down the yellow brick road of the 21st century, pushing the limits of modern technology with some filmmaking magic he's helped invent. >> just relax and let your mind go blank. >> james cameron: i've been working up to this for a long time. this is the film i think i always wanted to make when i set down the path of being a filmmaker. >> safer: "avatar" is set on the moon pandora, a fantasy eden, which earthlings want to exploit, a shangri-la created
entirely by computers. >> cameron: you're creating a world-- every creature in it, every blade of grass, every tree, every cloud in the sky, every little reflection in the eyes of the characters. >> safer: it is part cross- cultural love story, part high adventure. about the only thing that's done the old-fashioned way is the music. >> cameron: what i want is that. i want that expression. >> safer: on the set, there are far more computer jockeys than stage hands. "avatar" is made up of at least 3,000 separate shots, each one containing layer upon layer of special effects. what's interesting to me is that, with all of the technical changes, it always comes down to the story, no? >> cameron: exactly. it all boils down to the story, and to this, right there, you know, right in the eyes. >> safer: cameron's stars are sigourney weaver, sam worthington and zoe saldana. but in a sense, the real stars
are the inhabitants of pandora-- ten-foot-tall blue people with tails. you gave them long tails. >> cameron: hell, yeah. >> safer: why? >> cameron: well, tails are cool. tails are very expressive. i mean, anybody that owns a dog or a cat knows that you can tell the cat's emotional state by what its tail's doing. >> safer: and this very tall tale is very expensive-- roughly $400 million-plus for production and promotion. here at a high-tech complex on the 20th century fox lot, on the very spot where marilyn monroe proclaimed that gentlemen prefer blondes, jim cameron works down to the wire, supervising the final tweaks to "avatar". >> cameron: we're going to have to push that smoke element back. >> safer: his fantasy creatures are based on performances by the real actors. cameras record dots on their faces. computers then analyze their expressions and bring the blue people to life... >> do not attack! >> safer: ... characters both
otherworldly, yet strangely like ourselves. >> i think we just have to push the layer of smoke in front of him. >> safer: on a satellite link are experts at a special effects studio a world away in new zealand. it's there the final images are processed. >> cameron: we're going through and we're analyzing every last detail within the shot to make sure that it's up to snuff. we can make the grass greener or yellower, we can make the sky bluer, all those things. >> safer: and you can now just do what you want electronically? >> cameron: sure. even when we were doing "titanic" 12 years ago, you know, the shot at the bow where they kiss, we waited two weeks for the right sunset to get that shot. now, we'd just shoot it in front of a green screen and choose the right sunset later, you know, digitally. >> safer: shooting actors against a green screen and filling in the background by computer is a brutally time- consuming process. >> cameron: 3,2,1... action! >> safer: we dropped in on cameron a few times over the past two years and found a man
obsessed, a hands-on devil for detail, as here, with time and money slipping away, he spent most of a day rehearsing and shooting-- and shooting-- a scene that might last barely seconds. are you excessively obsessive? >> cameron: clinically? never been diagnosed. i'm sure it's in the job description for directors, in general. >> safer: cameron is 55, married five times, for the last nine years to actress suzy amis. his office is filled with remembrances of blockbusters past, including the wheel from the set of the good ship "titanic." >> cameron: i keep this in my office because i know what it feels like to be at the helm of a sinking ship. which is what it feels like on every movie that i make. that's the thanator. he's the big bad guy in the woods. >> safer: he wrote "avatar" years ago, but had to wait for technology to catch up with his vision of blue people and alien worlds.
>> cameron: i've loved fantasy and science fiction since i was a kid. i'm an artist, i'm an illustrator. i've been drawing creatures and characters and robots and spaceships since i was... since i was in high school. >> safer: growing up in canada, his passions were movies, art and science. after the family moved to california in his late teens, he spent some aimless years, dropping out of junior college, working as a machinist and a bus mechanic. >> cameron: and then one day, i just quit my job and started making... making a film, making a short film. >> safer: you once said, "i went from being a bum who liked to smoke dope and hang out by the river to this completely obsessed maniac." what was the turning point? what was the point at which you lost your mind? >> cameron: ( laughs ) or found it? i think, you know, i found my calling. and i think the moment you're making a film, no matter how crude, no matter how small or cheap the film is, you're a filmmaker. >> safer: he'd hang out at the university of southern california library, reading up
on the technical aspects of moviemaking. soon, he had his first real hollywood job. >> cameron: working for roger corman, but that was big time for me. >> safer: corman was and is the legendary king of the "b" pictures, who in the '60s and '70s, gave many young filmmakers a chance to show their stuff. besides cameron, corman alumni include jack nicholson and directors ron howard and martin scorsese. >> cameron: people came in with a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of passion, not much experience. >> safer: cameron made himself useful on a "star wars" rip-off called "battle beyond the stars." he designed model spaceships, helped with special effects, and soon was running the art department. >> cameron: you had no money. there were no delusions of grandeur. you didn't care what film it was, it was a movie. >> safer: his first directing job was on a preposterous bit of business called "piranha 2". >> cameron: it's the very best
flying piranha movie ever made. ( laughter ) >> safer: but cameron and the italian producer did not get along. and soon, the director was finito. why were you fired? >> cameron: the producer wanted to take over the movie and direct it himself, especially the scenes with the "penthouse" pinups. it was extremely sleazy, the whole story. but again, all part of the learning curve, right? >> safer: and while in rome, arguing with the italians, cameron had a vision, literally. >> cameron: i was sick with a high fever, and had a dream of this kind of chrome, metallic death figure coming out of fire, kind of a skeletal robot, if you will. so i woke up with that image in mind, did some drawings, and then constructed a story around that image. >> safer: that dream image became the terminator. the movie put cameron on the map, though his star, arnold schwarzenegger, was not the studio's first choice. >> arnold schwarzenegger: i'll be back >> cameron: the head of orion, who were going to release the film, called me up and said, "are you sitting down?"
"i've cast this movie." i was at a party, and it's, "are you sitting down? it's o.j. simpson for the terminator." and i said, "this is the stupidest idea i've ever heard," you know. i didn't know o.j. simpson, i had nothing against him personally. i didn't know he was going to go murder his wife later and become the real terminator, you know. >> safer: in recent years, he's made underwater documentaries on the "titanic" and the german battleship "bismarck." both expeditions presented enormous challenges, plus the danger of working almost three miles down. >> cameron: the jacques cousteau specials-- this was in the late '60s-- brought the ocean into our living rooms and into my already inflamed imagination that loved, you know, exploration and fantasy. so i had a love affair with the ocean that began before i had actually even seen an ocean. >> safer: his 1989 film "the abyss" is still remembered as one of the toughest movie shoots ever. cameron filmed it in south carolina in a decommissioned nuclear power plant filled with
ten million gallons of water. >> cameron: we were underwater for ten weeks-- six days a week, eight to ten hours a day, submerged. >> safer: from "the abyss" on through "titanic," cameron got a reputation for driving cast and crew relentlessly, come hell or high water, to get the shot. it's not for nothing that the letters on the cap in his office stand for: head "bleep-bleep" in charge. >> cameron: i'm not in this to phone it in or to do mediocre work. i tell everybody when we start a project, "you know, we're going to the super bowl. just understand that." as martin sheen said in "apocalypse now," you know, "don't get on the boat if you're not ready to go all the way." >> safer: do you ever cross the line from being demanding to, i don't know, impossible? >> cameron: i like to think not, and certainly not lately. you know, maybe in the early days, there was a lack of perspective, where the movie was
everything. >> safer: with "avatar," cameron demonstrated he still has the right stuff. but he lost the oscar race to a familiar competitor, kathryn bigelow, cameron's third ex- wife. she won best director for "the hurt locker," which also won best picture. but michael lewis and other 3d believers say "avatar" was a game changer. >> michael lewis: "avatar" is, potentially, the "citizen kane" of this medium. >> safer: lewis's company makes 3d systems for theaters, which have been cleaning up. the studios hope 3d television will bolster the sagging market for home video, their main revenue source. and beyond that: >> cameron: maybe it becomes the standard for news gathering. maybe it becomes the standard for sports. >> safer: so you think that someday not far from now we'll be in 3d. >> cameron: i'll be doing "avatar 10" and we'll be having the same interview, but we'll be in 3d. >> safer: god help us all.
>> cameron: ( laughs ) exactly. >> safer: movie making, jim cameron once said, is war, a constant fight against the countless things that can go wrong in a world of big money and big egos; where, after four years, just birthing the movie is about all a director can think of. what is the next thing, after you... when you finish? >> cameron: i haven't decided. i haven't decided. you know, i think you don't ask a woman if she wants to have another baby at the exact moment she's having a baby, you know what i mean? >> safer: you sure don't. >> welcome, presented by lipitor. >> at the traveler's championship today. bubba watson defeated watson in a sudden death play-off, his first career play-off victory. in the first round ever the world cup, germany eliminated
england 4-1 to advance. and argentina also advanced beating mexico 3-1. for more sports log on to cbs8.com. i should've been doing more for my high cholesterol. ♪ you should've listened. you're right. now i'm eating healthier and i trust my heart to lipitor. [ male announcer ] when diet and exercise are not enough, adding lipitor may help. lipitor is fda approved to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in patients who have heart disease or risk factors for heart disease. lipitor is backed by over 18 years of research. lipitor is not for everyone... including people with liver problems and women who are nursing, pregnant, or may become pregnant. you need simple blood tests to check for liver problems. tell your doctor if you are taking other medications, or if you have any muscle pain or weakness. this may be a sign of a rare but serious side effect.
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>> pelley: now, a few minutes with andy rooney. >> rooney: the letters i get come in four general categories. it may be more or less, but say four. one, i get a lot of good letters. they're the best kind. they're from people who liked something i said, and i can always take that. two, i get letters from someone trying to get me to promote something on "60 minutes." i never do that. never have.
three, i get letters from people who are mad about something i said. they usually think i was wrong. four, i get a lot of letters about what i look like, letters pointing out something about my appearance. recently, i made some remarks about our mail and the u.s. postal service. a lot of people thanked me for supporting postal workers. you could tell they were all from mailmen because they called themselves "postal workers". i always called them "mailmen." the letters also referred to the "u.s. postal service," but i still call that the "post office." robert w. lovaasen, jr., writes "i am a postmaster in a small town in south louisiana. i greatly appreciate hearing your support for the u.s. postal service." the mayor of slater, missouri, says, "i totally agree with you on the fact that people do not correspond through the mail any more, and i am curious if you ever received this letter." let me see. no, mr. mayor, i don't think i ever got your letter.
maybe it was lost in the mail. i frequently get a lot of letters about what i look like. this one from dennis ryan in clifton park, new york, says "i notice you wear your wristwatch with the dial facing inward. my dad did the same thing." yes, i wear it that way because it's easy to see what time it is, mr. ryan. didn't your father tell you that? my least favorite mail comes from people who want me to promote something. obviously, they don't know that i don't do that. i guess that's why someone sent me this michael jackson cutout paper doll book. here's a nice letter to the producer of "60 minutes" from someone named m. titus. mr. titus says about me, "he's not funny, he's not clever, he makes me dislike old men in general." next week, maybe i'll do a funny and clever piece about you, mr. titus. >> pelley: i'm scott pelley. we'll be back next week with another edition of "60 minutes." chronologically i'm 60 years old.
is it the new 40, i don't know. i probably feel about 30. how is it that we don't act our age? [ marcie ] you keep us young. [ kurt ] we were having too much fun, we weren't thinking about a will at that time. we have responsibilities to the kids and ourselves. we're the vargos and we created our wills on legalzoom. finally. [ laughter ] [ shapiro ] we created legalzoom to help you take care of the ones you love. go to legalzoom.com today and complete your will in minutes. at legalzoom.com, we put the law on your side. and complete your will in minutes. i'm from the gulf coast. captioning funded by cbs, i have a personal interest in ensuring that we get this job done right. i'm keith seilhan. i'm in charge of bp's clean up on the gulf coast. bp's taken full responsibility for the clean up, and that includes keeping you informed. over 25,000 people are included in the clean up operation. our crews are cleaning the gulf beaches 24/7. we're going to be here as long as it takes to make this right.
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